Saturday, April 22, 2006

10 Questions with Bob Roll and Jessi Pacetti

I hear that some of you really liked the interview with Bob Roll and Jessi Pacetti. Good to know. Seems like I've been hearing about those two more and more lately. For example, rumor has it that BobkeInk is about to start working with one of the cycling pros that is seriously hot right now...stay tuned...

Until then, here is the rapid-fire round with Bob and Jessi that I promised. Just short questions and answers. Enjoy.

1. What do you do that isn't industry related to unwind?
BR: Skiing mostly. Hiking.
JP: I take a sculpt class three times a week, do some personal art, hang with my kids.

2. What is your favorite place in the world?
BR: The French Pyrennes
JP: My soft comfy bed or Target.

3. Talking on the phone or via email?
BR: Phone
JP: Email

4. Text messaging or email?
BR: Text
JP: Either

5. What question do you get the most? (Bob, this time of year I'll bet I can guess....)
BR: Who is going to win the Tour de France?
JP: How did you get your job? You can find the answer on Missing Saddle

6. Johnny Cash or Jonny Lang?
BR: Johnny Cash all the way.
JP: Donna, that question is so unfair and you know it. I love them both. You are being such a meanie.

7. New York City or Las Vegas?
BR: New York City. That’s where we should have Interbike.
JP: New York City hands down any day. Vegas gives me a bit of anxiety.

8. Hey, Bob....Harley or KTM?

9. Carbon or Steel?
BR: Carbon
JP: I just got a kick ass carbon road bike. . . .

10. And for Bob, from Tim....What was more fun, Roubaix or Flanders?

Posted by Donna Tocci at 3:46 PM 2 comments

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bob Roll Interview - BobkeInk, websites, podcasts & just who is Jessi?

As Tim mentioned when we started this venture I don't have a hardcore cycling background. I really didn't start following cycling until about 6 or 7 years ago. So, my only point of reference for Bob Roll is what he's done during Le Tour coverage on OLN, which is fantastic and the main reason I watch Le Tour coverage each July evening on television after I've listened to it live on my computer at work.

A few years ago I wanted to get in touch with Bob to talk about a promotion for Interbike. I asked a mutual acquaintance if he had Bob's agent's number. He didn't, but gave me Bob's email and said he thought it would be ok if I sent him an email directly. So I did. I nicely asked for his agent's contact info. I didn't get an email back. Days went by. Maybe a week or two even. Then one day, I picked up the phone and heard, "This is Bob Roll." Well allrighty then. We've worked together ever since and it's been fantastic. Yes, he's the fun guy you see on the television commercials and the witty commentator but he's also a devoted dad and just all around nice guy.

Recently, Bob's launched a website, started a company and partnered with a firebrand, Jessi Pacetti. What's going on here?! Curiousity got the best of me as a marketing person so I asked for an interview to learn more about the marketing of Bob Roll. Jessi and Bob politely indulged my request (even though they thought I was crazy with the amount of questions!). What follows is an email interview with both of them - yes, email - you try to get Bob in one spot for more than 10 minutes this time of year!

This isn't the cycling interview that you may have seen many times over with Bob. This is, I hope, a little different, especially since this is a bicycle industry marketing blog! Ok, Tim asked me to put in a few cycling related questions because he just couldn't help himself, but most of this will be related to the marketing of a celebrity.

Before we start, I must thank Bob and Jessi profusely for all of their time. You guys rock!
Now sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy the interview with these two dynamic people.

Bob, let’s start with an easy question set. How long have you been doing Le Tour on television? How did that come about?
Since 2001, though I didn’t do 2002, so this will be number five. The original executive producer was Rick Lacivita and he read some of the stories I wrote when I was racing and asked me during the last year of bike racing if I was interested in doing TV. That was 1999 and OLN covered the World Mountain Bike Championships that year and asked me to be a commentator. It worked out well and I found I enjoyed it and the rest as they say is history.

Was there an audition?
My first job was 18 hours of live TV. Straight into the deep end. I think that was audition enough.

I would think that the OLN gig gave you a visibility to an audience that didn't know you before (the folks like me!) when you were racing. Did you see a dramatic increase in requests for appearances right from the get-go?
It took awhile, I would say as my television role has grown, especially starting in 2004, when I had my own show – it’s been an avalanche since then.

Did book sales radically increase?
They did actually. The first book I wrote, which is now sold out, gets amazing prices on eBay because it’s out of print.

Your your athletic achievements were numerous, but truly you have an incredible gift of captivating an audience with stories and cycling facts. When you retired from racing did you have the idea to market yourself as a personality/celebrity?
No. I had the idea to work in the Durango Lumber Mill. I had filled out an application and was hired. Television saved me from that. I still don’t feel like a marketable commodity, but it seems as if the requests are more numerous than I could handle. The speaking engagements are a fun way to connect with the people who watch me cover the cycling races.

I know from experience that you do fabulous talks in front of cycling enthusiasts like the one you just did at Century Cycles in Ohio for Kryptonite (shameless plug!), but what are some of the fun events you have done?
The fun comes when people are excited and the crowd is energetic. It’s easy to feed off of that. I always meet some great people on the road.

Ones that have meant something to you personally?
The Lance Armstrong Foundation rides and Livestrong rides have meant a lot on a personal – not so much personal – on a personally significant level. Every talk is unique and every group of people is unique and the people have a lot of fun.

And, of course, what wouldn't you do or is there a type of event that you really just don't want to do. No naming companies, just generalities.
There’s no cycling related event that I don’t enjoy. Things are easier now.

How do you prepare for 'An Evening with Bob Roll'? Do you wing it or have notes or a general flow of thoughts before you step into the spotlight?
I have a general flow of thoughts that I organize in my mind in the days before the talk. I don’t like to repeat myself even though some of the stories are in the general consciousness of cycling. I don’t like to repeat myself. Did I already say that?

Although you don't show it, do you get nervous before getting in front of a group of people?
It’s not a nervousness that I recognize, but my senses are definitely more alert. I used to get really nervous – not to the point that I couldn’t sleep the night before. I just wanted people to laugh at my stories and if not, I hope they were educational.

Ok, because it was so talked about last year, I have to ask about the trainer commercial. What kind of impact did that have on things?
For Kinetic it was great. They had so many people go to their website during the Tour that it crashed their server. That makes me feel good because the sponsor got a good response. For me personally, it’s kind of uncomfortable having my naked body across the TV screens of America, but everyone who saw it laughed their keister off. That’s all good.

Did you get asked to do all kinds of wacky things after that?
Not really. That was about the limit. I was in San Antonio this last weekend and got to do “monkey bike races.” That was fun. There was a silent auction and the winners had the chance to race me on the little bikes and if I won, they had to pay double. Good money for the charities which feels good.
(Note: I believe Britton Bicycle Shop was involved in Bob's trip to San Antonio)

Do you think that the trainer commercial helped or hurt your celebrity?
I think it helped. It Americanized the sport and brought a more outrageous American feel to a 150 year old European sport that can be quite stogy at times.

And, because everyone wants to know, I'm many takes to get that done (without busting up laughing).
It took all day because we couldn’t stop laughing. On the other hand it was odd . . . .

If someone is interested in having you come to their event now they can go to your website and put in a request there, but how did you get leads for events in the past?
That was sort of random. They came in all kinds of different ways. One organization knew someone who worked in Gatorade promotions and Gatorade called OLN. Mostly people just used word of mouth to find me which wasn’t very effective.

Would you connect with folks at the events you were already doing?
Sometimes, yeah. Sometimes a representative of an organization would see me at an event and book me for something else.

Before you and Jessi started to work together how did you keep your schedule straight?
My schedule was a disaster and I’m sure I missed out on a lot of opportunities, but now things have become a lot more manageable schedule-wise. Mostly because I only know about a third of what’s to come.

Every time I'd call you to talk dates, you'd rattle off your schedule for 2 months out. Do you use a big wall calendar or day planner or just keep it in your head?
A desk sized monthly calendar with really big squares.

I was always impressed with how you could rattle off your schedule and you'd been doing all of this for years by yourself, why take on a partner now?
Because the profile of the Tour de France has become unmanageable for one person and I was running myself into the ground fielding all the requests. I was uncomfortable during negotiations. Be real, I’m a bike racer.

And now....enter Miss Jessi.....

Bob, give us one word to describe Jessi.

Jessi, besides being a cycling fan and bonding with Bob right from the get-go, what is in your background that helps with what you are doing now?
Honestly everything and nothing. I was a waitress, a bartender, an outdoor retail manager and most recently worked in the office of a construction company. I think the people skills came mostly from rationalizing with drunk people (I don’t recommend it) and the retail management gig. I learned a lot about contracts and business from the construction company. I’m not the gal to chain to a desk, so this deal with Bob was what I really needed to keep my juices flowing and be excited about my day to day. I am really lucky to have this gig – it’s amazing how great it feels to have your skills used and exercised on a daily basis.

Who is Jessi???
I’m a crazy ex-party girl who married a cycling fan and has two awesome little gals at home now. I refuse to drive a mini van and fall into the stereotypical preschool mom thing. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that - it just ain’t my bag) I’m also quietly pursuing my art career on the side. Very quietly.

Tell me a little bit about your cow project and how that got started. Are you an artist by love or trade?
I checked a few years back and I was a year away from graduating from college with a degree in Art Education so I guess you could call it a love of the trade. I’ve always been creative and artistic. About a year ago I was working my butt off to put together my art portfolio and the Cow Parade open call came out in Wisconsin. My mom found the call in the newspaper and was really adamant about me submitting an idea. I mean, REALLY adamant. God bless her. The woman knows me. Instantly I had the idea to decoupage her with Wisconsin maps. I have done a lot of decoupage in the past, but nothing like this. It took over 30 hours and 49 Wisconsin Highway Maps. More than 300 applicants were submitted and they picked just under 70 to actually make a life size cow. It has really been a great experience. The best part is that Bob would tell me not to work for days at a time so I could finish her. I had a great support system in my husband, Bob, my folks and some close friends. That meant a lot.

I know your husband rides, but do you ride, too?
Not professionally. The first time Billy Biker Boy (my husband) took me cycling we had been dating for a few months. We live in Wisconsin and started dating in the winter, hence the delay. He took me on this ride that was about 4 ½ hours long – huge hills, long highway stretches, questionable areas of town. We were nowhere close to home and I had to bartend in less than an hour. Billy had to call his buddy to come get us because I had to get to work. We got into our buddy’s car and Billy rubbed my shoulders and was like “good job today – you’re really a trooper.” I responded with a long line of explicit words inappropriate for this website. I do like cycling and have been on the trainer for the last few months AND got my first road bike for my birthday. (Thanks Bill!) I am anxious to get out there this year.

Jessi, give us one word to describe Bob.

Bob and Jessi - just what is BobkeInk?
JP: That’s our company. It started with just me and Bob to organize his schedule with the goal to expand eventually. To what, we weren’t sure at the time. We have talked about a lot of really cool things, but I think we need to pare it down to a few and be good at them. Where we’re at right now is a real stepping stone to the huge ideas we have lurking in our crazy heads.
BR: That is the parent company of, my three books, my schedule. It’s just the name for the bank to cover everything we’re doing. We are looking to add additional cyclists to the BobkeInk family.

It's a play on words that I think is great, by the way. It makes me assume that there is more writing to be done...another book perhaps???
JP:We are pretty smart, aren’t we? The writing thing is up to Bob. I could write a book . . . not sure anyone would want to read it.
BR: I have three books in my mind in addition to two children’s books. When I get time I’ll get them written. Maybe have Jessi illustrate the children’s books.
JP: Sweet.

Jessi's based in Wisconsin and Bob's based in Colorado. What are the challenges and advantages of that working situation for you both?
BR: The obvious challenge is that I can’t yell at Jessi when I need to. (laughs) The distance involved sometimes hinders our communication and traveling schedules. The obvious advantage is that I can get a nap by simply turning off the phone.
JP: Challenges? Bob has many skills. Current technology isn’t a primary part of his skill set. Advantages? I get to hit preschool duty and kids’ doctors appointments without feeling guilty. I can work at night and screw around all day. I’m not chained to a desk. . . . I have windows and can go outside, take a class at the gym, or do my art whenever I want. I love the freedom. I also know I will have a least one enlightening “Bob Says” conversation every day.

How are you marketing the company? Through traditional media (press releases, interviews with publications etc) or through electronic media or a combination?
BR: A combination of all those plus being able to mention the website during speaking engagements and tv appearances. We are also networking through other cycling sites and companies.
JP: It also helps that we’ve made some great contacts at the stores and events we’ve been to. It feels good to call a week or so after an appearance and find the shop still benefiting from Bob’s visit. Good PR never hurts. I can name at LEAST 3 people from every store I’ve visited with Bob and we keep it personal. I think that goes a long way. This last weekend I even acquired an adopted family in San Antonio. I’ve always wanted siblings! (Here’s a shout out to the Harris Crew!)

The website launched a few weeks ago. How is that going; is traffic good?
BR: Traffic is fantastic and universally positive so far.
JP: We have gotten great traffic. We had some technical difficulties in there, but I think we’re good to go now. Blog-ke entries based on the emails we’ve gotten from the site hits are our main priority right now. A lot of the questions center around a few recurring themes so we’re going to tackle those first.

How do you like being a blogger, Bob? Are there any plans to turn that into a true blog where people can leave comments to specific posts?
BR: Well, not being a true blogger and having a blogging assistant, you’ll have to run that by her.
JP: Bob, did you know what any of that meant?
BR: Actually, no.
JP: I’m looking into that this week. Stay posted. I think being able to respond to blog entries will really spark some great conversation on the site. It will happen very soon.

I see that there is a section for merchandise. What's that all about and what is the time frame for that?
BR: We want it up and running in time for the Tour DAY France!
JP: I’m currently designing some really great apparel that will be 100% Bobke Approved. We’re crafting some smartass tshirts, hats, a hoodie, socks, maybe a toddler tee and there are a few other surprise items in the works. I have revisited some classic Bobke art and phrasing from back in the day to incorporate with new designs. So far things are looking really fun. I’m working with a great printhouse and am really excited about this part of our journey. We want to have it all up and running in time for the tour rush. My goal is to keep it simple because I will be running it out of my garage on my own – at least to start with.

Are there any other plans to add other functionalities to the website? Podcasts from events or Le Tour? Video at all?
BR: Eventually as the technology evolves I would enjoy commentating on the big bike races without worry of political correctness.
JP: Bob, you didn’t answer the question.
BR: I didn’t? Podcasts? Absolutely. That’s what I’m talking about. I think it would be fun to record one of my speaking engagements and put it up.
JP: I think we can swing that. I’ll put it on my to do list. . . . .

I would think that the nature of marketing a personality/celebrity is such that a personal connection is paramount. Bob sells himself. How are you going to balance that now? Bob can't be everywhere so I understand Jessi dealing with logistics of events and appearances (and there are many!) but will Bob still be accessible to those people who need a little more personal connection before booking him?
JP: Bob typically calls each place I book him to get a vibe and check in. I think that’s a rarity. I would be surprised if Terry Bradshaw did that.
BR: (laughs) Also, the bike confraternity is such that personal contact is essential for a successful visit.

What do each of you see for BobkeInk in 5 years?
BR: That’s a good question. I would like it to be a resource for all cyclists including the highest end of racing, grass roots participation, trail advocacy and commuting. Maybe some touring excursions.
JP: You’ve got some broad goals there, partner. Better get those job applications out! I see us having 4 or 5 current racers and be the proud organizers of BobkeFest in Durango Colorado. THE BEST BIKE FESTIVAL IN ALL THE LAND. We talked about that a long time ago. . . . maybe it’s time to resurrect that one. . . (Jessi drifts off, gears churning) Outside of those realistically achievable short term goals, there are some REALLY big things we’re discussing the possibilities of doing. I shoot pretty high and get there step by step. I take one thing at a time. We definitely have some remarkably exciting opportunities we’re looking into. Things I never thought I would do, but am really looking forward to their conception.

Bob, traveling as much as you do gets exhausting, I know. Do you see yourself keeping up this pace for years or will there be some time in the future where you just say "Uncle" and stop or limit your appearances to only a few each year?
I’ve been at it for two decades and feel pretty good. I have gypsy blood.

Note: 10 rapid-fire questions & answers coming soon.

Posted by Donna Tocci at 4:13 PM 4 comments

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Olde School Marketing- Part 2

I'm back from Australia now and still processing the events of the trip. To say the least, it was a busy time- though incredibly enjoyable.

Like I mentioned just before I left for Oz, for as much of a major proponent I am for blogging, the good ole face-to-face Brand Evangelism is still my favorite. To me, there is no way to beat the power of speaking to a group of people or an individual person. For as effective as my blog has been in connecting people to the brand and displaying my passion for the brand, I know I am far more persuasive in person.

When thinking of a marketing plan or strategy, it is important to continue to incorporate the human element in those plans. What worked well for me in Australia was that many of the retailers I met with were already very familiar with me, thanks to the blog. Several of them were regular readers and already felt they had developed a relationship with me before I ever set foot in the country. Obviously, that is a huge selling point for the blog and how beneficial it has been. However, those dealers weren't beating down the doors of our distributor begging for Masi bikes.

Meeting the dealers, shaking their hands and then presenting the bikes, the company and our passion for our bikes (my passion for my bikes) was the missing piece that resulted in orders for bikes. I'm not saying that I am a phenomenal salesperson because I don't believe that to be true. What I am saying is that the mere presence of the Masi Brand Manager, talking about the the bikes, was what did the job. Truthfully, it could have been "any $5.00 an hour monkey" (direct quote from an old employer of mine) with a decent speaking ability... but don't tell my bosses that. Sure, I'm mighty passionate about what I do and really do love my job and therefore might be better at talking about my job than a lot of people might be, but passionate people are not hard to find. At least, people who look and sound passionate are not hard to find. Let's face it, a good spokesperson doesn't have to actually care about the product/ service if they are good at just conveying the message. It is always better if they are, but do you really think that all of those spokespeople you see/ hear really care? This might all sound very cynical, which isn't my point here, but the truth of the matter is that a face-to-face presentation can be highly effective.

I'm convinced that my blog laid the groundwork for a good sales trip in Australia and I am never going to stop blogging, even if my career path changes, but I will also always utilize a handshake and good conversation. If you've ever seen me in Las Vegas during Interbike, holding court with a bunch of retailers in my booth, you'll understand why.

For those of you who haven't seen me in action, the above picture gives you a little idea of what I'm trying to say here. I get a little animated... Donna, Jill, Tim and Chris have all seen me in my booth and know what I'm talking about. Brian Gillin, the National Sales Manager for the PacBrands cycling division, said that in all of the years he's been in the cycling industry he'd never met somebody so passionate about a bicycle. I obviously consider that a huge compliment (thanks Brian), but that could be said about you and your product/ service/ shop, etc. Shouldn't you be out there proving that point?

So, please read my blog and then come see me in Vegas. I promise I'll do what I can to get you to really understand just how passionate I am about my job, my bikes and my company.

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

Posted by Tim Jackson at 7:25 PM 4 comments

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Congratulations Bike Portland!

Congratulations to Bike Portland! It was a year ago yesterday that Bike Portland was 'born'. In that time Jonathan has posted well over 700 informative posts for the cyclists of that great city. He's made in-roads with city and police officials and really created a place for cyclists to congregate and share information. It's a wonderful resource. If you haven't checked it out before, please do, even if you don't live in Portland - there is something for everyone there.

Congrats, Jonathan, keep up the great work!

Posted by Donna Tocci at 3:00 PM 0 comments

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Did you make the leap...

Referring to Donna's post about the cryptic website,, that was advertised in Velonews about a month ago. Upon further research people discovered that the web address belonged to SRAM and speculation started. The consensus seemed to be that it was for the new road groups that SRAM was poised to introduce. If you went to the site then there was a little red frog that asked you to check back after the 7th of April for more info.

Just a little while ago I came across some news on Cycling News about the new SRAM road groups, which reminded me about the whole site. So has anyone checked it out? I did and I liked the site but was a little disappointed.

When I first went to the site I had to upgrade my Macromedia Flash Player to version 8, which was just recently released, in order to even see anything. This made the process of me viewing their new products and marketing materials even harder. I had to download the player, install it, and restart my browser. Not difficult but still caused to me have to work for 5 minutes to get to the site. I think they should have made it compatible with older versions of the player because people are sometimes slow to update to the latest software. Strike one SRAM.

Once I finally got the player updated, installed, and restarted my browser I get to view the site. My first thoughts are it looks nice. The navigation is good and the look of the site is very clean, it has a modern style, and definitely showcases the product well. The images are quite large and allow the viewer to get a good look at the shifters, brakes and other parts with out too much effort. The copy is leaning more towards high-tech with the descriptions of materials and technologies used in the design and production of the various items. Hit for SRAM.

Finally the big gripe that I have with the site is that it was done in Flash. Yes, Flash allows designers to do really cool things and gives ultimate control over the presentation of the site, more like an interactive printed piece. But like I mentioned at the beginning it required me to download a new/updated plug-in before I could view it. Also, since it is done in Flash I cannot bookmark a specific page; I can only bookmark the site. An actual example of the shortcoming of a Flash site is what I found while browsing through the site, a possible mistake in the Technologies section. So, since I can't provide a link to the page I will have to describe it to you. In the Features section, under the Materials section the text is the same as the text under the Exact Actuation section in the Tech section (see picture below). I am guessing this is just an oversight and am not trying to bring it to light to fault SRAM for the mistake, because we all make them, but this is to point out the flaw in using Flash and its lack of bookmarking. Since I can't link to that specific page I had to use two sentences to describe how to get there to see it. Using Flash elements is good but making the whole site in Flash and not being able to bookmark specific content is bad. Strike two SRAM.

Overall, I think that SRAM has done a great job with their marketing and controlling the release of information about the road group to build interest. This has definitely worked for me and I am eager to check it out and give it a test ride sometime. So SRAM keep it up but please redo the website so that I do not have to navigate through the entire site every time I want to drool over your new shifters.

just my 2 cents


Posted by Anonymous at 10:48 AM 2 comments

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Park Tool Promotion

As anyone in the cycling industry knows, it is difficult to come up with an all inclusive promotion for dealers. After all, how do you create a fair initiative for multi-store locations, big stores and smaller stores? It's not easy.

Recently, I read over on Bicycle Retailer & Industry News' site that Park Tool has created an International Distinguished Service Award. Basically, a customer nominates his or her favorite shop by writing a letter to Park Tool about the great service he or she got. Ah-ha! It's all about the service, not sales volume. Bravo, guys!

On Park's site they say, "This award is designed to recognize bike shops that provide excellent repairs and a service experience that is above and beyond the call of duty."

Obviously, being a tool company, this is a perfect tie-in for them.

A winner will be chosen by Park Tool each quarter. Yes, it's a little subjective, but they can't pick a shop that wasn't nominated, right? If your letter is picked, the shop will be recognized on the Park Tool site and you will get a PZT-1 Pizza Cutter. From the quarterly winners one winner will be picked for the year. I'm assuming they get a grand poo-bah prize or something. I'm sure it will be funky and cool. Oh yea, that pizza cutter....I have one in my kitchen. It's kinda fun.

Yes, there does seem to be a rule for this contest. I couldn't have said it any better if I tried so here is the verbiage straight from Park Tool's site:
There is a special place in hell for shops that submit their own names. If caught, we will expose this fraudulent behavior in as embarrassing a way as possible.

HA! If you know the Park Tool guys at all, you know they mean this. You have been warned.

Now, go on and write a letter to nominate your favorite shop, if they've earned it.

Posted by Donna Tocci at 3:32 PM 0 comments